*(Not affiliated with the Boston Bruins or the New England Hockey Journal)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Central Scouting's mid-season rankings: North American skaters pt. 2

With the background appropriately addressed in the previous post, we'll jump right into the snapshot of Central Scouting's North American skaters for the first round.

At 11th, Ty Rattie deserves to be there, and you could definitely make a case for the diminutive but supremely talented Portland Winterhawks forward being inside the top-10. In talking to one NHL scout out west, he's been most impressed with Rattie's reinvention of his game. Last season, Rattie was a one-dimensional gongshow who spent a lot of his time trying moves that worked in bantam but weren't happening in the Dub. This year, he's taken his skill and creativity to a whole new level.

Former New England prep player Zack Phillips is 12th on the list and while his production is nice for Saint John, his skills aren't much to write home about. His skating is average and while Phillips has nice hands and instincts, he seems a little high here, as you can make the chicken and egg argument with him as it pertains to linemates and a strong team. On one of the weaker clubs in the QMJHL, it's not likely that Phillips would put up the points, because he's just not as creative as you would like. Good kid and player, but just not someone I would have here ahead of say, Ryan Strome for example.

J.T. Miller is a solid option at 13 as another U.S. NTDP product who has size and offensive ability, even if he hasn't been scoring the way he was projected this season. But with Miller's size, skating, sense (and spirit) I would imagine he'll be a solid 1st-round pick come June. He's an Ohio kid who played his minor hockey in the Pittsburgh area, and should become a fixture on the next couple of USA WJC squads coming down the pipeline soon.

Saskatoon Blades rearguard Duncan Siemens has been rated inside the top-10 in some circles and I'm not buying that. I think Central's ranking is a little closer to reality at 14 and he might actually go around 20. Big, mobile and tough, Siemens hasn't been able to put up the points you would expect. I love his toughness and defensive game, but there's just not a lot of upside with this guy. Of course, with Brayden Schenn now cruising through the slot for Saskatoon, Siemens might see a boost in his assist totals. But still, not a huge fan of this player, and talk of him cracking the top-10 is insane, in my opinion. There are so many other better options out there.

Next up at 15 is another B2011DW fave: USHL defender Scott Mayfield. Now, if the Bruins were to draft a power forward with the Toronto pick, it wouldn't surprise me in the least to see them go with this raw, but very projectable two-way blue liner with size and toughness in Mayfield with their own 1st-round pick if they keep it. I've been told that the St. Louis native (who's committed to Denver University, but whose OHL draft rights are owned by the Kitchener Rangers) is stagnating a little because he plays for a bad team and isn't getting a lot of coaching with the Youngstown Phantoms. I was also told that Mayfield and B2011DW sleeper Mike McKee formed a wicked pairing at the NHL Research and Development Camp in Toronto way back in August. He's a good skater with a booming shot and an edge. Some sources have him way underrated, but I think 15 is about right based on what I know. We'll see what reality entails come June.

Portland puck mover Joe Morrow checks in at 16, and the Winterhawks will once again be well-represented at the NHL draft. He's got nice size, can really fire the puck and teams were hoping he would stay under the radar this season. As Dana Carvey used to say on the old SNL shows when he was impersonating President Bush 41: "Not gonna do it!"

London center Vladislav Namestnikov is a solid option at 17-- he's got bloodlines (father Evgeny played in the NHL and his uncle is longtime forward and Stanley Cup champion with Detroit Slava Kozlov), skill, creativity and has come on strong for the Knights after a slow start. Like Landeskog, he has barely a trace of an accent because he was raised in the U.S. and Canada for most of his young life while his father was bouncing between the NHL, AHL and IHL before returning to Russia. Bruins prospect Jared Knight raved to this blog about Namestnikov's skill and creativity, and declared that he'd be a 1st-round pick back in early December.

Now things get a little iffy. Oshawa Generals center Boone Jenner is ahead of Niagara's Ryan Strome, who is having one outstanding year. Nothing against Jenner-- his skating is improved and he always works his bag off. That said, I find his offensive upside more limited than Strome's. In fact, not entirely sure why Stome is so low on this list. He's closer to 10 than 20, but this is par for course with Central's public rankings and is sure to be a source for debate on the internet message boards this week.

At 20, Jenner's Oshawa teammate Nicklas Jensen comes in. The Great Dane has been playing much more like the moniker of late. I was in person to see him rack up a 4-point afternoon and was impressed not only with the offense, but his play in the defensive zone. He's legit around this spot, though may slide a little lower. But if he keeps playing like he has of late, not too much lower.

From 21-30 there are some interesting players to note:

One of my sources is not all that high on Barrie (OHL) center Mark Scheifele, while others like the big pivot's game. Don't know enough to draw the line in the sand, but the hockey sense and hands are said to be sticking points, so we'll see. Hard to believe he's ahead of Prince Albert's Mark McNeill, though, who is 22, and scoring at a point-per-game pace on a bad offensive club. McNeill is another guy NHL teams were hoping to steal later, but given that he can score and fight, that ain't happening. He's also much father along in his physical development than most 18-year-olds.

I like Tomas Jurco at 24 and Rocco Grimaldi at 25 is interesting. No doubting Grimaldi's skill or dynamic offensive dimension, but man, the kid is t-i-n-y.
His listed height/weight of 5-6/163 is probably a tad generous. Someone will draft Grimaldi, but I would be shocked if it's in the 1st round. Big risk there.

Defenseman David Musil is in free-fall at 26, but it makes sense based on what we've been hearing all year. Big and talented, but doesn't have the offensive upside you want in a top-two, and hasn't played with the kind of intensity/passion scouts like for a shutdown guy who will make his bones in his own end most likely.

Jamie Oleksiak is gi-normous, but probably overrated at 27. Who doesn't love 6-7 d-men with condor-like wingspans, but he's much more Hal Gill than he is Zdeno Chara or Tyler Myers.

Seth Ambroz at 28 is not shocking at all if you've talked to the right people and paid attention to his mediocre statistical output, which in this case, tells the story. He's the classic case of the player who draws raves for his physical prowess and ability years before his draft season, but never really progresses. Someone will take a flier on Ambroz earlier than he should go given the campaign he's had in the USHL, but there's some real bust factor with this guy. He simply doesn't work as hard as he should. And the lack of skating/speed/footwork is a major turnoff with so many big forwards in this class who can actually get up and down the ice well.

Matt Puempel at 29 is Central's Jeff Skinner- What the F*** ? (WTF?) moment for me. OK- I get that he started slowly (after a season-opening hat trick, that is) and I get that Puempel is on a pretty bad team. But ever since Ryan Spooner left, Puempel's play has trended upward. Puempel's not the most explosive guy, nor is he the most consistent or focused, but when it comes to scoring goals, he just knows how to get it done. Those guys are gold, and there's no way, none-- that Puempel will last to 20 let alone 29 in the upcoming draft. And you can take that to the bank!

Mario Lucia of Wayzata H.S. in Minnesota is 30th and I suppose that's fine. I would have Shane Prince or Rickard Rakell there but that's just me. Lucia's got some raw upside, but isn't expected to be a horse the way Nick Bjugstad was coming out of the Minnesota H.S. ranks last season.

Ok, that's a wrap on the first-round. I'll be back later tonight with a look at some guys who dropped lower than expected, some sleepers and a look at the goalies.

Should be up either during or just after the Bruins game, so check back in. And as always, comments welcome!


  1. I can't really say that I am surprised by anything on the list Kirk as in a lot of cases it is too close to call.

    I'll agree with you 100% on Puempel. That's probably as close to surprise as there is. ANd tagging it "this years Jeff Skinner" is pretty accurate imo.

    As for Prince, i don't know what else he has to do. And I'll be honest, i didn't have him in my top 30 (overall) but i wouldn't hesitate saying he is top 15 from the OHL?

    I guess it's at the point now where you could ask 1000 people to rank 1-30 and get a different answer form all of them. (If it's mathematically possible).

    On a way down the list note - glad to see Seth Griffith made the list at 157. He's got some work to do But he's been on fire with Jared Knight lately.

  2. I think Strome at 19 is a joke. As you said, he is closer to 10 than 20, I will take it one step ahead that he is close to 5. He has size, offensive production and consistency.
    If you get time check this out

  3. Pretty good read, Sum. Thanks for the link.

    Dom, almost listed Seth Griffith as a 'sleeper' but didn't want to be seen as playing to the crowd. I've asked about him and didn't get much info. from the NHL Ontario guys I queried at the WJC, so that tells me they like him OK. Probably hoping to steal him late.

  4. You sure like to throw Siemens under the bus often. That is pretty suprising considering how little you have actually seen of him live.

    I've seen him around 50 times this year and I see a Ed Jovanovski type of player in the long run.

    I really appreciate the work you do, but all 30 NHL teams would love a workman-like defender like Siemens on their team.

    Is he going to go top 5-7? Likely not. But anywhere from 8-15 will be a great fit for the big defender.